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FY2009 NASA budget request released
monitorlizard
post Feb 5 2008, 01:59 AM
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NASA's next fiscal year budget request was released today, with new starts for a small lunar orbiter for 2011, two small lunar geophysical network landers for 2014, and an official start for the solar probe mission in a lower cost, non-nuclear version. These new spacecraft really snuck up on me, I'd only heard about solar probe before. A good summary of all the Science Mission Directorate budgets for FY2009 is at:

www.nasa.gov/pdf/210258main_SMD_budget_presentation.pdf

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monitorlizard
post Feb 5 2008, 02:07 AM
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sorry, 723 kb
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n1ckdrake
post Feb 5 2008, 07:55 AM
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For those interested in reading the entire NASA 2009 Budget Request:

Full Document (5.9 MB PDF 792 pgs) - http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/210019main_NASA_FY...t_Estimates.pdf
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mps
post Feb 5 2008, 09:29 AM
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QUOTE (monitorlizard @ Feb 5 2008, 03:59 AM) *
new starts for a small lunar orbiter for 2011, two small lunar geophysical network landers for 2014, and an official start for the solar probe mission in a lower cost, non-nuclear version. These new spacecraft really snuck up on me, I'd only heard about solar probe before.


I think the "small lunar science orbiter" is GRAIL's co-payload, but why it has to be another Moon orbiter... Is there any science instrument left that hasn't been on lunar orbit
by that time? wink.gif But hey, we have never too many space probes. smile.gif
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Doc
post Feb 5 2008, 10:55 AM
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Sob! There goes the Mars campaign!

On the other hand I think its wise for NASA to concentrate their money on the Earth for a change.


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vjkane
post Feb 5 2008, 04:25 PM
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QUOTE (mps @ Feb 5 2008, 10:29 AM) *
I think the "small lunar science orbiter" is GRAIL's co-payload, but why it has to be another Moon orbiter... Is there any science instrument left that hasn't been on lunar orbit
by that time? wink.gif But hey, we have never too many space probes. smile.gif

From the budget documents, it appears that the small orbiter will study dust in the vicinity of the Moon, and is totally unrelated to GRAIL


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vjkane
post Feb 5 2008, 04:55 PM
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QUOTE (Doc @ Feb 5 2008, 11:55 AM) *
Sob! There goes the Mars campaign!

On the other hand I think its wise for NASA to concentrate their money on the Earth for a change.


I've looked through the budget several times now (as an ex-manager, I always look at the numbers first and the nice story second).

I think that given the budget that Alan Stern was given that he is doing an incredible job of getting the most out of it. I certainly hope he survives the possible change of administrators with a new President.

The additional funds for earth science, ~$100M if memory serves me right, are way below what was recommended (~$500M). Still, the missions started are very important and have risen to the top of a very competitive list of possible missions. ICESAT-II will also be very useful for my work in mapping forests.

The Mars program is a great big TBD until the science community fills in the blanks with several reports due out by March, if memory serves me right. Right now, there is the 2013 aeronomy mission, then ExoMars, which needs a relay craft. One option would be for NASA to add funds to the 2013 mission and make that a communications relay in addition to a science mission. After that, there is a TBD 2016 mission. Based on a conversation I had with a senior Mars scientist in December who is involved in this process, this would probably be a rover mission that will cache samples. Then the 2018 and 2020 missions are listed as sample return flights. This could be a lander/ascent combination in 2018 and an orbital retrieval/Earth return mission in 2020.

The real news out of all this for Mars is that NASA is changing the focus on Mars science from remote sensing and rover ground truthing to laboratory studies. An awful lot of the politics behind mission selections, I'm told, is which scientific community to support. There is a large community with laboratory instruments that have been waiting for returned samples. I think a large part of the discussion of the outer planets flagship is which scientific community(ies) to support. Titan offers a lot to the in situ instrument community; Jovian orbiters a lot to the remote sensing instrument community.


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nprev
post Feb 5 2008, 05:54 PM
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Interesting, and truly systemic, analysis, VJ.

It's a bit dismaying that apparently three communities of interest are seemingly destined to compete for (let's face it) sparse funding largely based on financial/technological driving factors rather than scientific goals, however. The core dynamic seems to be cost vs. potential return, modulated by risk.

I submit that this prima facie risk-averse strategy may have adverse effects on future innovative exploratory efforts if it becomes a paradigm. Speaking broadly here (and mindful of political factors that have a great deal of influence on outcomes), 'exploration without risk' is an oxymoron. It would be tragic if NASA's UMSF efforts become moribund for lack of a willingness to assume risk.


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mchan
post Feb 6 2008, 07:18 AM
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QUOTE (vjkane @ Feb 5 2008, 08:25 AM) *
From the budget documents, it appears that the small orbiter will study dust in the vicinity of the Moon, and is totally unrelated to GRAIL

LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) is not related to GRAIL in its science objectives, but it is targeted for launch in the same timeframe as GRAIL and could possibly hitch a ride on GRAIL's launch vehicle if it has payload margin and post-launch delta-V to put two different missions into their respective orbits.

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Doc
post Feb 6 2008, 10:37 AM
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Thanks for your crstal clear explanation VJ. But one more question.

The Solar Probe mission is mentioned in the budget. Since I stink in busines would you care to clarify on the financial status as well as the office politics concerning this mission seeing as it is (in my opinion) the most interesting notion in the budget request.


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vjkane
post Feb 7 2008, 01:09 AM
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The Mars community is starting to complain about the new Mars budget: http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=26923. Two pertinent quotes:

"Funded at $386.5M, well below the FY08 Congressionally-mandated floor ($626.4M) and void of launches in several opportunities over the next decade, NASA's FY09 budget request for Mars exploration is neither aligned with the past success of this program or this recent Congressional direction. In fact, this budget request includes more than a $200M reduction (~35%) relative to that planned for FY09 in the December 2007 enacted legislation. Making this request even more alarming is the proposed five-year annual budget average for Mars exploration of about $350M, with only $300M in FY10 (less than one-half of the FY07 Mars program budget). This compares to an average annual budget plan of about $620M from FY09 to FY12 in last year's budget request...

"By removing any semblance of a continuous exploration sequence, this week's announcement puts the future Mars program on a path toward irrelevance. Let's take a closer look at one likely future. Following the Phoenix landing later this year, MSL will be launched in 2009. Beyond this date, the future Mars program launch opportunities consist of: nothing in 2011, a Mars Scout orbiter in 2013, the potential for a single medium-class mission in 2016, nothing in 2018, and the glimmer of hope for an international MSR campaign that may begin in 2020. Of course, since this is a five-year budget request that runs through FY13, there need be essentially no funds for MSR contained within it. This is not a program that will produce compelling science. It is the beginning of the end of what has been a dramatic advancement in our understanding of the Mars system. In addition, this budget request portends a potential decade gap between MSL and our next Mars surface mission. The NASA administrator has spoken eloquently about the ramifications that a gap in human spaceflight would have on our Nation. Is this Mars surface exploration gap no less significant or concerning for the scientific and engineering literacy of our country? "

I think we're seeing the practical impact of enabling a new outer planet flagship and a new frontiers in the next two years. To enable those, something had to go down. My concern isn't that Mars is being cut back -- it's had a hell of a run -- but rather that the scientific community isn't being given a chance to replan the program to the new budget. In addition, the most expensive possible mission sequence, a sample return, is being inserted into the budget. Something isn't right here.


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Phil Stooke
post Feb 7 2008, 05:42 PM
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I love Mars - uh, in a manly sort of way - but I have to.. no, let me rephrase that - in a sort of brotherly way. - but I have to say I think it got an exaggerated share of the exploration budget ever since the infamous Mars meteorite story a decade ago.

The idea that Mars has to have a flight every 2 years is unjustified. Continuous presence - unjustified. It's a very interesting place, of course. But there is no reason why we shouldn't accept a Mars slow-down, especially if it is replaced by additional efforts elsewhere. And Mars Sample Return will be expensive, so banking some cash by missing an opportunity is quite reasonable.

If some Mars efforts were redirected elsewhere, there are numerous targets in the outer solar system to be picked up. And personally I'd love to see a series of Venus landers going to geologically distinct regions.

I think some responses to the budget changes could be considered a bit exaggerated.

Phil

PS - my brothers are not as weird as this might suggest!


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Mariner9
post Feb 7 2008, 09:17 PM
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Quoting from above:

Let's take a closer look at one likely future. Following the Phoenix landing later this year, MSL will be launched in 2009. Beyond this date, the future Mars program launch opportunities consist of: nothing in 2011, a Mars Scout orbiter in 2013, the potential for a single medium-class mission in 2016, nothing in 2018, and the glimmer of hope for an international MSR campaign that may begin in 2020.


I agree that the MSR right now is still just a glimmer of hope, but let's look at the rest of this scenario. This would launch missions in 2009, 2013, 2016, 2020, and no launches in 2011 and 2018.

Essentially that ammounts to missions in 2 out of every 3 opportunities. That is still a comparatively healthy rate, and still gives Mars a continuing program.

However, this new budget seems to just about wipe out MSR. When the annual budget was 500-600 million, skipping a launch window essentially gave you anywhere from 500-900 million extra in the bank for MSR at a later date (assuming that continuing operations of existing missions, and other expenses will always eat up some of your annual budget even if you have no launche).

But with an annual of 350 million, I just can't see a lot of extra money being socked away for a rainy day. You have to skip the 2011 and 2018 launch windows just to save up enough money for the upper end of the medium class missions. And just about forget any MSL class projects.
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vjkane
post Feb 7 2008, 11:20 PM
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If NASA and the science community decide that Mars should be a focus, but at a lower expenditure, there are other ways to keep returning excellent science at lower cost. The key is to not re-invent the entire mission each time. Here are two scenarios:

The MSO study group identified 4 sets of high priority science that a follow on orbiter could do. One mission set would be to design a single orbiter, and then refly that design each opportunity with a different instrument set. (this is pretty much was was done with MGS, MCO, and Odyssey if I recall correctly)

Design a medium size rover (between MSL and MER) and refly the design each opportunity. I have a couple of Mars geologist friends who would just love this option so they can get ground truth on more areas.

However, redirecting your program to the most expensive option and then cutting the budget doesn't make sense to me. Do one or the other.


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vjkane
post Feb 8 2008, 11:36 AM
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QUOTE (Doc @ Feb 6 2008, 11:37 AM) *
The Solar Probe mission is mentioned in the budget. Since I stink in busines would you care to clarify on the financial status as well as the office politics concerning this mission seeing as it is (in my opinion) the most interesting notion in the budget request.

Sorry that it took a few days to find the time. The budget run out for the Solar Probe is a bit strange:

Solar Probe
FY 07 -
FY 08 13.9
FY 09 -
FY 10 3.4
FY 11 40.1
FY 12 74.2
FY 13 106.3

Usually, missions don't go to zero after a new start. My interpretation of this is that there's a small pool of money (starting in FY 08) that enables a small amount of up front work, but that the real work on the mission isn't scheduled to begin until FY 11. However, there may be money in another account which enables significant progress on Solar Probe that is apparent in its official budget.

I think that the new start for this mission is a commitment to put it on the manifest of committed projects, but isn't a new start in the traditional sense of beginning the major work of design and building the craft. My guess is that Stern wants to get a number of missions officially on the books even though the funding profile doesn't allow immediate amounts of significant money. I think this is good since it sends a clear message to the community what the roadmap is for the next several years.

Contrast the Solar Probe funding profile with that of another FY 09 new start (years are the same as above):

Outer Planets
79.0
81.9
101.1
216.7
279.4
230.6
362.0

or

Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM)
-
3.7
8.5
63.0
83.0
109.0
125.0


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